Posts Tagged: California
UC ANR provides the California home of Project Learning Tree, a national program founded in 1973, during the height of an environmental movement sparked by Rachel Carson's seminal book Silent Spring.
“Everyone began to realize we were having an impact on the environment,” said Sandra Derby, Project Learning Tree state coordinator.
Project Learning Tree (PLT), working with the forestry industry, developed an environmental education program and trained teachers to present it to children in formal and informal educational settings. In California, the program is funded by CAL FIRE.
Another UC ANR program, UC California Naturalist, has collaborated with PLT since 2013.
“There is a lot of shared interest in environmental education, stewardship and service in our two programs,” said Greg Ira, director of UC California Naturalist (CalNat). The CalNat Program recruits and certifies a diverse community of volunteers across California to conduct nature education and interpretation, stewardship, participatory science and environmental program support.
During the coronavirus pandemic, CalNat offered PLT courses to school teachers, volunteer educators and parents online. Completion of the six-hour course over three days resulted in their certification for teaching PLT curricula. The book, aimed for children pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, includes 96 activities, with objectives, assessment opportunities, online teaching connections, and more.
The teacher training course offered by CalNat engages participants with the same activities they will employ when teaching nature appreciation to children.
Learning to appreciate the environment
Even though online training focuses attention on a computer screen, the PLT curriculum gets pupils outside. After writing about and discussing a favorite tree from memory, the participants were asked to go outside to gather a variety of leaves around their homes, classrooms or offices. They observed leaf details, and sorted them by observable characteristics.
The participants reconvened and shared their leaves, divided into categories onscreen: Leaves with rough edges, rounded, oval or palmate; rough, waxy, furry and thick; drooping down or reaching up.
Teachers can use additional activities outlined in the curriculum to help students understand natural variations and biodiversity by engaging with the leaves through observation and art. For example, if the training is taking place in person, the children can trade leaves and then look for the trees where their peers found them. Or they can put a leaf under a plain piece of paper and rub the side of a crayon across it to show the leaf's margin, veins and other details.
There are also activities related to common core skills and abilities. For example, different leaf characteristics can be charted in a Venn diagram, with leaves' common characteristics appearing in the center – such as green, pliable, veins – and singular characteristics in the sections that do not overlap.
Making environmental learning accessible
PLT advances environmental literacy using trees and forests as windows on the world, said Cynthia Chavez, PLT community education specialist in Southern California. The hands-on, engaging activities help “teach students how to think, not what to think” about the environment and their place within it.
“Environmental education could be taught in a daunting way,” Chavez said. “PLT opens the door to kids who are different kinds of learners. This is important for environmental education.”
PLT's comprehensive collection of activities have won the confidence of the education community. Curricula is only offered to teachers who have completed workshops so PLT can share a proven system of implementation.
“PLT training encourages students to care for the environment and be interested in pursuing careers in environmentalism. They learn science is not just in the classroom. They could become a field biologist, if that's the way their brain works,” Chavez said.
Expressing engagement with nature in words
Among the ways to connect with nature outlined in the PLT curriculum are reading, journaling and writing. To close the educator training, participants were given 10 minutes outside to draw inspiration from nature and write a poem – haiku, free verse, rhyming or other style.
Below are samples of poetic nature observations written on the fly by teachers who will inspire California young people to appreciate and help conserve the natural world with the help of PLT.
A droplet of sun
Planted firmly in soil
Linking earth to sky
I have botany blindness, always looking for things that scurry, not sway
But I am asked to acknowledge the tree, and I do
A lone palo verde
There's a chevron lizard on the trunk
A small, yellow verdin in the branches
A line of busy ants along the roots
So I am grateful for this tree, after all
It sways, and upon closer inspection, it scurries as well
A fly comes by
As wind hits my hair
Almost as if
It moved here and there
Then Winston, my dog
Hears someone bark
And a bird starts to chirp
Like a crow or a lark
Green Jobs Personality Quiz
Project Learning Tree offers a one-time free trial intended for adults to test its Green Jobs Quiz. The quiz helps kids learn what green job fits their personalities. You'll receive information about how to administer this quiz to youth you work with.
In 1953, amid reports that cannabis was growing around San Mateo County, the local sheriff's office and the UC Agricultural Extension Service in Half Moon Bay issued a booklet entitled Identify and Report Marihuana. The booklet envisioned “total eradication” of cannabis. The authors couldn't have imagined that, in 2017, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors would pass an ordinance allowing greenhouse cultivation of cannabis in the county's unincorporated areas.
A lot can happen in 60-plus years — such as voter approval of Proposition 64, the 2016 ballot measure that altered California law to allow the recreational use of cannabis by adults.
That said, federal restrictions still inhibit many aspects of research (see page 104 for more detail). Cannabis research is also inhibited by funding constraints. The $10 million in annual research funding that Proposition 64 allocated to California universities has not begun to flow, and the Bureau of Cannabis Control — the entity responsible for disbursing the money — reports that it is still establishing guidelines for doing so.
Despite these obstacles, UC cannabis research in the legalization era is well underway, as attested by this special issue of California Agriculture. The research articles presented here fall into three broad categories — research into cannabis production, into the economics of the cannabis industry in California and into the social and community impacts of cannabis. The three articles focused on cannabis production include the results of the first known survey of California cannabis growers' production practices, by Wilson et al. (page 119). In the article “Characteristics of farms applying for cannabis cultivation permits” (page 128), Schwab et al. combine data on cannabis farms with information about applications for cultivation permits, establishing that, of farms within the dataset, those seeking permits tended to be larger and to have expanded faster than other farms. And on page 146, Dillis et al. analyze data submitted to the regional water quality control board to characterize the water sources used by cannabis cultivators in the Emerald Triangle region (Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties).
Articles focused on the economics of the cannabis industry include a study by Goldstein et al. (page 136) analyzing online retail prices for cannabis flower and cannabis-oil cartridges as changes in regulation and taxation have taken effect in recent years. Valdes-Donoso et al. (page 154) analyze data from sources including California's cannabis testing laboratories to estimate the cost per pound of testing under the state's regulatory framework.
Four articles explore the social and community impacts of cannabis production. On page 161, Valachovic et al. report the results of a survey of timberland and rangeland owners in Humboldt County, who shared their experiences with the rapid expansion of cannabis production in their region and its attendant social, economic and environmental challenges. LaChance (page 169) interviewed noncannabis farmers, ranchers and others across Humboldt, Mendocino and Sonoma counties, eliciting their views on issues such as increased land prices amid cannabis legalization. For the article “Growers say cannabis legalization excludes small growers, supports illicit markets, undermines local economies” (page 177), Bodwitch et al. surveyed cannabis growers to gain insight into their experiences with the state's system for regulation of commercial cultivation. Finally, on page 185, Polson and Petersen-Rockney employed ethnographic methods to study cultivation regulations in Siskiyou County and their effects on the county's Hmong-American community. The special issue was conceived by Van Butsic and Ted Grantham — UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) specialists based at UC Berkeley — and Yana Valachovic — a UCCE forest advisor and director for Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Butsic, Grantham and Valachovic developed the issue in collaboration with Daniel Sumner, a UC Davis professor of agricultural economics and director of the UC ANR Agricultural Issues Center, and with the staff of California Agriculture.
There's something magical about exercise. It impacts the body in many different ways, and all of them are good.
Exercise burns calories, improves cardiovascular health, tones muscles, boosts mood, and now scientists are learning that it also thwarts one of the most-feared symptoms of aging, memory loss.
Researchers at UC Irvine are conducting a 15-site national study on the effects of aerobic exercise on adults with mild memory problems. They are hoping to document evidence that will allow physicians to write prescriptions for exercise.
“Exercise is medicine,” said James Hicks, director of UC Irvine's Center for Exercise Medicine and Sport Sciences.
To date, no effective drug therapies to treat dementia have been found.
“Since 2002, 420 clinical trials on drugs targeted for Alzheimer's have been launched. All of them failed,” Hicks said. “No drug will change its trajectory. But physical activity might.”
Another UC Irvine professor, Carl Cotman, agrees.
“That concept has exploded. That's where the future is: understanding how exercise alters disease trajectories and improves outcomes,” Cotman said.
Cotman's research showed that exercise increases production of a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which aides in learning and memory and facilitates connections among nerve cells. It's so critical to brain function that it has been dubbed “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”
“Exercise builds brain health,” Cotman said. “It makes you more efficient. You're thinking cleaner. It introduces a state of readiness.”
UC ANR educators encourage Californians to exercise
While scientists study the impact of exercise at the molecular level, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources nutrition educators continue to emphasize the importance of physical activity when they teach youth and families ways to improve their lives with healthy eating and movement.
UC ANR's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is offered in 24 counties in California. It is administered by UC Cooperative Extension offices. EFNEP educators help limited-resource families gain the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behavior necessary to choose nutritionally sound diets and improve their well-being.
Families who participated in the program have said that it transformed their lives for the better. They have changed what their family eats, switched to low-fat milk instead of whole milk and have fruit for snacks. They eat more vegetables and fruit and thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator. Some walk daily, others play games with their children. Almost all use store ads and unit pricing to get the best shopping deals.
CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California is another nutrition education program administered by UCCE. It helps children and adults choose a healthy lifestyle by encouraging good food habits and decision making skills. Adult nutrition education is provided at no cost to low-income families. The youth nutrition education program provides support and resources to preschool through high school teachers in low-income schools to deliver nutrition and physical activity education in their classrooms.
CalFresh Healthy Living, UC helps families find parks in their neighborhoods so they can stay active, and shows how they can join sports team and locate public pools. The training acknowledges that it can be difficult to add exercise to busy lives, and helps participants overcome the barriers.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend:
- 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week, or 30 minutes five times per week
- Strength and resistance training two times per week
- Flexibility exercises two to three times per week
“Perhaps the most common barrier is a lack of time,” said CalFresh Healthy Living, UC nutrition program coordinator Austin Cantrell. “In order to implement an exercise routine into our lives, many of us will need to plan out our day and see where we can fit exercise into our schedule.”
An important thing to remember, Cantrell said, is that exercise doesn't have to happen all at once.
“If you exercise for 10 minutes three times throughout your day, you will have met your 30-minute requirement,” he said. “If we exercise for 10 minutes before we go to work, take a 10-minute walking break while at work and exercise for 10 minutes after work, we will meet our recommended amount of physical activity for the day.”
A way to save time is engaging in vigorous physical activity, which cuts exercise time recommendation to 75 minutes a week. How can you tell the difference between “moderate” physical activity and “vigorous” physical activity? Examples of moderate activity are walking or gardening. Vigorous physical activity includes running, sprinting or swimming.
“Typically, you will be able to hold a conversation during moderate activity, but will be unable to sing,” Cantrell said. “During vigorous activity, you will not be able to have a conversation without considerable shortness of breath or pausing.”
Some people feel more motivated to be physically active by combining it with activities they enjoy.
“Spend time with your children playing outdoors or playing sports,” Cantrell suggests. “Seek social support by joining walking clubs or recreational sports leagues.”
Should doctors write prescriptions for exercise? By Shari Roan, UC Irvine
Overcoming barriers to exercise By Austin Cantrell, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC
'Attention is the beginning of devotion' --Mary Oliver
This quote resonates this month, amidst a variety of environmental holidays and celebrations including World Environment Day, World Ocean Day, California Invasive Species Action Week, and finally National Pollinator Week (this week) and Month. It seems in this increasingly digitally connected world, one day, week, or month doesn't pass us by in the calendar year without an official opportunity to observe, act, or celebrate nature.
As these official observances pop up, we can also contemplate all the unofficial ways people celebrate, protect, and educate about nature in their daily lives. There are both small and incremental and heroic acts taken every day to make this a more livable world for all creatures. There is momentum behind a movement that says “we're paying attention and the environment is worth our time and energy and devotion despite all the other worthy competing causes.”
In celebration of National Pollinator Week, we want to highlight just a few of the many California Naturalists whose efforts benefit pollinators. Every UC California Naturalist completes a capstone project of their choice to receive certification. These final projects require at least eight hours of volunteer service, and are often built upon by subsequent naturalists in following cohorts. They always benefit nature, and often benefit the recipient communities and organizations. Most California Naturalists would tell you they benefit the individual, too. Capstone projects are a culmination of service, learning, and “paying it forward.” Our community celebrates both the projects and the creativity, labor, and intentions of these naturalists.
Inspired by the intersection of science and art, California Naturalist Rose from the Hopland Research and Extension Center created this gorgeous outreach poster in both English and Spanish from her original pollinator garden painting for the Redwood Valley Outdoor Education Project. Her goal is to spread awareness of the important ecological roll our native pollinators play and to share Xerces Society resources. Animal pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, beetles, ants, bats and hummingbirds. According to Xerces Society, the ecological services that pollinators provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world's flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world's crop species. Honeybees get a lot of media attention, yet many other pollinator species like native bumblebees are in precipitous decline. The UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab is another excellent source of native bee information.
California Naturalist Cynthia from the USC Sea Grant SEA LAB course made houses to support native mason bee population in Palos Verdes, CA. The bee houses were made from repurposed scrap wood and cardboard, paper coat hanger tubes, used toilet paper and paper towel rolls, and giftwrap rolls. She reached out to a local Girl Scout troop to help make three types of houses. The Girl Scouts leveraged the new learning opportunity and service work to receive an "Outdoor Journeys" badge. Then she met with four kindergarten classes of 24 students each and together built houses to take home. The houses in the picture aren't examples of her model but were ones she found online.
Mason bees are solitary bees named for their behavior of using mud in constructing their nests. Mason bees may defy some assumptions about bees. They don't sting, they don't live in a hive, and they don't make honey. They do, however pollinate flowers and fruits and vegetables and need a safe place to lay their eggs. When available, some species use hollow stems or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects which is where mason bee houses come into the picture. UC Davis Department of Entomology compiled this list of resources on where to find and how to make nesting sites for native bees.
Sue from the Tuleyome course built bat boxes for her local home owners association to hang in Arnold, Calaveras County. At least 45 species of bats inhabit the United States and Canada and there are at least 27 known species of bats in California. Bats are very important pollinators and seed dispersers, particularly in tropical and desert climates. In addition, they serve a very effective agricultural pest control purpose. Although they provide vital environmental services, bat populations are in decline globally. To make your own bat boxes, UC ANR offers a guide to build songbird, owl and bat boxes.
All of our certified California Naturalists know how to use iNaturalist. Since uploading at least one observation is part of the course requirements, the City Nature Challenge was the perfect opportunity for Naturalists to reconnect with each other, offer their skills to their city's efforts, and contribute to a global scientific database.
The 4th annual City Nature Challenge was a huge success around the world. Together with the 159 cities that participated, we uploaded almost one million observations of biodiversity to iNaturalist in just 4 days. More than 35,000 people took part across the globe, and over 31,000 species were documented, including more than 1,100 rare, endangered, or threatened species.
This was also the biggest week for observations recorded in iNaturalist history, as demonstrated in the graph below.
With the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County organizers publicizing the Challenge for their cities and working to highlight events, we wanted a chance for our Sacramento Region Naturalists to join the fun, too. Beginning in September of 2018, we co-organized for the Sacramento Region with Ryan Meyer and Julianna Yee from the UC Davis School of Education's Center for Community and Citizen Science, our UC Davis Evolution and Ecology California Naturalist instructor Laci Gerhart-Barley, and environmental educator Chelle Temple-King.
- Partners that held Bioblitzes outside of city boundaries over the weekend: Hopland Research & Extension Center, UC Santa Cruz Arboretum
- Sacramento Region CalNat partners: Many thanks to American River Conservancy, Yolo Basin Foundation, Effie Yeaw Nature Center, and UC Davis' Wild Davis for organizing Bioblitzes as first year guinea pigs
- Bay Area CalNat partners: thanks to Sonoma Ecology Center for a Bioblitz and Grassroots Ecology for contributing observations during their class field trip
- Certified California Naturalist Cedric Lee as the number one observer for Los Angeles County!
- Certified California Naturalist and Tuleyome instructor Mary Hanson came in 5th for the Sacramento Region; UC Davis' Wild Davis instructor Laci Gerhart-Barley and 3 current CalNat students came in the top 10
- Certified California Naturalist Millie Basden came in 8th for San Diego County
- Certified California Naturalist Amy Jaecker-Jones is a co-organizer for the international City Nature Challenge through the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Despite the final results, the real winner of the City Nature Challenge is science and nature. A database holding a greater number of research-grade observations to draw from allows scientists to further study our natural world. You can take a look at publications that have used data from iNaturalist to see just where our contributions are going. And of course, the more people who get outside during the Challenge, the more people engage with the nature around them. Everybody wins!
- 1st place for number of observers with 1,947 (This includes more than 550 observers who were new to iNaturalist)
- 1st place for number of identifiers with 813
- 4th place for number of observations with 38,028
- 5th place for number of species found at 3,183
- Participants submitted anywhere from 1 to 698 observations
- Most observed species: California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
- Los Angeles had the greatest increase in number of observations over last year: increase of 14,702 observations!
- Los Angeles had the greatest increase in number of people observing over last year: increase of 700 people!
- Over 1/3 of our observers were new to iNaturalist in the two weeks before CNC began
- Overall, Sacramento came in 30th out of 159 participating cities
- Of 27 the other participating cities with a population of 2,500,000-5,000,000, Sacramento came in 9th
- In all of 2019 leading up to the Challenge, post-Challenge our region was able to increase the number of observations by 7.8% (9832 observations), species by 2% (124 species), and observers by 3.5% (233 observers).
- Sacramento came in 5th for the number of total observers for a region > 20,000 km2
- For all the observations we collected in the Sacramento region, 57% ID'd to species became research grade (or useable for scientific quality data).